Eucharistic Celebration Commemorates 7th Anniversary of the Death of Paula Merrill, SCN and Margaret Held, OSF

Posted by Spalding Hurst

August 29, 2023

St. Vincent Church, Nazareth, Kentucky – Aug. 25, 2023

The pews of St. Vincent Church were filled as the community gathered to remember and celebrate the lives of Paula Merrill, SCN, and Margaret Held, OSF. The day marked the seventh anniversary of their tragic deaths on Aug. 25, 2016.

Throughout their lives, both women epitomized the gospel mandate – love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Similar to Ruth and Naomi from the scriptures, their bond was evident in their unwavering trust in God.

Mary Walz, DC, who has resided in Durant, Mississippi, for the past six years, reminisced about the two. “When the locals speak of Sisters Paula and Margaret, it’s about how they felt personally cherished by them.” Walz expressed that although she had never met Paula, the tales and memories shared by the community made her feel a close connection to both.

At Paula’s funeral on Sept. 2, 2016, Adeline Fehribach, SCN delivered a touching homily that still resonates today. Fehribach had reflected on how Sister Paula would often empathize deeply with the suffering she encountered, sometimes shedding tears for the marginalized of Holmes County, Mississippi.

Addressing the oft-asked question about living in a place marred by tragedy, Walz said, “I have not had a nanosecond of anything but peace living here.” The past six years in Durant have been a period of healing and renewal.

While the Daughters of Charity and a Sister of Charity of Halifax continued the ministries initiated by Paula and Margaret, a recent announcement from the Provincial of the Daughters of Charity, Province of St. Louise, indicates their imminent departure due to personnel shortages. This, however, is not the end – the mission, although without the presence of the Sisters, will carry on.

Efforts are already underway to ensure a smooth transition. A director has been appointed for the Prison Ministry, backed by a team of volunteers. These individuals will aid those nearing their release from incarceration, ensuring a smoother reintegration into society. Furthermore, the Sisters are donating their furniture to the Vincent De Paul Society for transitional housing.

The health clinic will also proceed, staffed by a nurse practitioner collaborating with Dr. Abboud. Meanwhile, the education ministry will continue to prep pre-school children for their entry into formal schooling.

Rosemarie Merrill, Paula’s sister and now a grandmother to “Emmanuel”, a 13-month-old girl, reflected on the Sisters’ legacy in Durant. “God works in mysterious ways,” she mused. “That legacy will evolve, but it persists.”

As Nazareth’s community moves forward, the spirit of Sisters Paula and Margaret remains a guiding light, a testament to their profound commitment to love, service, and faith. Their legacy, much like the tale of Ruth and Naomi, serves as a beacon of hope and charity, ensuring their impact is felt for generations to come.

1 Comment

  1. Ann Palatty

    The blood of the martyrs sows the seed of Christianity, or rather shall I say the gospel grows in and through them even after their death. Your witness in blood will not be wasted. May you continue to enjoy eternal rest.


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